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The Advice Centre

Know before you go—top four travel tips for you and your family

Tuesday, November 26, 2019
3.5   based on 17 votes
Choosing Coverage, For when you're travelling

Travelling to the U.S. or other international destinations over the holidays? Here are some important—and practical—things to know when preparing for your trip.

  1. Be ready. Ensure you have the right travel documents.
    • According to the government of Canada, a passport is the “only reliable and universally accepted travel identification document” that allows you back into the country. A Canadian Citizenship Certificate isn’t a travel document.
    • If your passport is set to expire during or shortly after your travels, get a new one before you go. All Canadian children from newborn to age 16 require their own passport to travel. Never sign a child’s passport—it makes it invalid.
    • If your child is travelling abroad with one parent or guardian (or other friends and relatives), ensure the child has a consent letter. The Canadian government offers a template
    • Use the name on your passport for all your travel bookings; if the names don’t match you may have problems.
  2. Be protected. Get in the habit of buying travel medical insurance.
    • If you have a medical emergency outside the country, the BC Medical Services Plan will help pay for some emergency medical care, but it is very limited. They strongly urge British Columbians to buy additional medical insurance—even for a day trip.
    • If your employer provides travel medical as part of your benefits package, don’t assume this coverage will be enough to pay the costs associated with an out-of-country illness or medical event. You’ll get emergency medical treatment (ambulance, physician fees, diagnostic services, and drugs), but many other services you or your family may need won’t be covered. Read the fine print.
    • Be aware that employer-based travel medical coverage has lifetime maximums—one major claim (or other costs that are paid by your plan, like expensive ongoing medications) might mean you don’t have the coverage you think you do for future travels.
    • Some premium credit cards offer travel medical coverage, but the amount is generally much lower than private insurance and they limit the number of consecutive days you can be away. Also note that you’ll need to charge 75% or more of your travel costs to the card.
    • Some travel insurers offer free coverage for children with two paying adults. Pacific Blue Cross has taken that one step further—we offer free coverage for kids with only one paying adult, allowing single parent families to get the same value as a family with two parents.
    • A CBC story featuring two Canadian travel insurance experts digs into this subject in a little more detail.
  3. Be money smart. And protect yourself from fraud.
    • Most major banks across Canada do not need you to notify them of upcoming travel plans. However, they should know how to reach you if necessary, so make sure your contact information on their online banking site is up to date.
    • Many banks allow you to use your debit card for international purchases. Find out what fees you’ll be charged over and above the currency conversion rate.
    • If you’re planning on using your debit card when travelling, confirm your purchase/withdrawal limits in the local currency so you don’t find yourself short of cash.
    • To keep your account safe while travelling, insert your chip card into the machine rather than swiping.
    • Be aware that some ATMs and banking machines outside North America only accept four-digit codes.
  4. Be safe. Sometimes emergencies happen.
    • Subscribe to the Government of Canada’s travel advisory tools on Twitter, Facebook, and  Instagram or download the Travel-Smart Canada app on your Apple or Android device.
    • Make copies of your important documents and banking numbers and leave them with a trusted friend or family member.
    • Program emergency numbers into your cellular device—just in case.

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